Netflix can wait, but the world cannot.
Once routine sets in, it is easy to get stuck in it. Grab a coffee, go to class, come home, do homework, do laundry, make some dinner, and watch a movie to unwind.
The unfortunate thing is that this routine could exist anywhere, and it doesn’t take flying all the way to Ireland (in my case) to perfect it and rely on it. In other words, if you’re not going to deviate from the pattern, why go abroad at all?
There is certainly something special and comforting about getting to know a place so well that you find your groove and establish what it is you "do” every day, but there is a little bit of danger in that comfort—the danger of forgoing spontaneity and sticking to the familiar.
Be sure take a break from routine, so you don’t get stuck in a rut, or worse, suffer from burn-out. A little excitement makes going back to work all the easier, it refreshes the mind, and pushes us out of our comfort zones. After all, isn’t that why we go abroad, to experience a new culture and shake up our lives, reminding us that beyond our university people are living all sorts of crazy, beautiful lives in crazy, beautiful places?
When I feel like I’m stuck in my routine, here are some things I rely on in order to remember the “abroad” in Study Abroad:
- Go on a walk in a place you’ve never been before. This may sound simple, but I’ve found that I turn off my brain when I walk a familiar path too often—I’m no longer really seeing or hearing everything around me and am instead focused on getting from point A to point B. Finding a new park or a pretty street and taking a leisurely stroll helps unwind the muscles and refocus the mind.
- Say yes to everything. Classmate wants to grab a snack before class? Yes. Roommate wants to try a new restaurant during the week? Yes. Instructor recommends a specific tour or site? Yes (they have especially good recommendations). I never regret saying yes despite being comfortable in the routine, it forces me to get out there and explore.
- Plan a weekend away. This doesn’t have to be a whole new life-changing experience, it can be as simple as looking up cheap Airbnbs and finding a train ticket. Something light that still allows me to get out of the apartment and hit refresh on my mind. It’s surprising how different a town two hours away feels and how different I feel when I’m once again pushed to get to know a new physical space.
It’s natural for the new to become familiar and the exciting to become ordinary, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to remember that no matter how scary, we need to ditch the trap of routine and continue (a)broadening our minds while we have the opportunity to really experience something once-in-a-lifetime.
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<p>Sammi Bilitz is a junior at Indiana University enrolled in the Writer's Program in Dublin, Ireland. She is studying journalism and international studies and is so excited to explore what Ireland has to offer. In her free time, you can find her huddled up in some bookstore with a steaming cup of tea in hand.</p>